Sterling Higa

rebuilding He‘eia fishpond while military planes buzz overhead



We pass them down the line,
my middle school students and I.
I remember the mangrove thicket
fifteen years ago as a child in this
place, the progress of sweat,
chainsaw and persistence.

Now the sea wall clear of debris,
the gates breathe in salty tide
and the fish feed in this place,
this prayer–
interrupted by the drone overhead
a green fuselage branded Navy
casting shadow on the fishpond below.

We are just a few hands in a chain reaching back
eight hundred years, and forward
I don’t know how far.

Teaching sustainability is shaping a child’s mouth
around words I do not yet know how to pronounce
but here where fresh and saltwater make brackish pond,
I can feel the words dancing in the back of my throat
like a song I have been dying to sing:
I am dying,
I am dying,
I am dying.

Child, your inheritance will be hunger
unless we learn to feed ourselves.
These rocks are too heavy to carry alone.

Teaching sustainability is watching my own hands fade
as these burdens pass me.
I want to give you more than these stones and coral pieces,
but this is all I have.

Rebuilding He‘eia fishpond while military planes buzz overhead
like gnats or mosquitos
if only my arm was long enough
to swat them from the sky.